Travel

Lower East Side Restaurants

Restaurant neighborhood
Contra
138 Orchard St., Lower East Side
New York's new guard of young chefs are doing things differently at Contra. Jeremiah Stone and Fabian von Hauske (also of Wildair) are striving to create and define a new food identity specific to New York City alone, and given the packed seatings, awards, and consistently good reviews—their approach seems to be working. They serve a set menu self-described as "ambitious," so expect everything from uni paired with verbena to skate with beets. The restaurant does not accommodate any changes to the menu, so be sure to check it ahead of the time if you have dietary restrictions.
Lower East Side
Dirty French
180 Ludlow St., Lower East Side
Rich Torris's restaurant group first got attention for Torrisi, a (now-closed) Italian joint that re-imagined classic dishes. As its name suggests, their second venture, Dirty French, does the same for French food. The thing to order is definitely the mille-feuille (it's a riff on the original dish that substitutes paper-thin mushrooms for puff pastry), but the whole menu—and, by the way, wine list—is excellent. The quirky décor is imbued in every part of the experience, from Bruce High Quality Foundation sculptures to frilly antique serving trays. You'll only need a group of 30 to justify an entire buy-out of the space, which gets really dolled up around the holidays.
Lower East Side
Freeman’s
Freeman Alley at Rivington St., Lower East Side
Nestled in a back alley that's decorated overhead with twinkle lights and on the sides with greenery, Freeman's is still going strong after all these years. The classically hipster interior (taxidermied animals and velvet floral couches abound) is dark and cozy, making it best suited to warm winter meals. Food-wise, the menu is simple but never boring, with options like a cracked wheat salad, house-made pork and fennel sausage, and seriously good Ipswich clam fritters. Sitting in the private wine room, tucked away in the back, feels a bit like eating a meal in a family member's kitchen.
Lower East Side
Ivan Ramen
25 Clinton St., Lower East Side
As its name would suggest, when it comes to ramen, Ivan and company know what they are doing (Ivan is actually a Jewish kid from Long Island who is obsessed with Japanese cooking). The Red-Hot Cold Mazemen is delicious, while the cold spicy sesame noodles topped with prawns are a great alternative on hotter days. If you go for dinner, they’re most famous for Triple Pork Triple Garlic Mazeman and Four Cheese Mazeman, which they only serve at night—the Tokyo Shio Ramen, loaded with egg, pork chashu, and roast tomato is a bit lighter. If you're not into noodles, the pork meatballs, garnished with bonito flakes, Chinese broccoli prepared in a sweet soy and garlic sauce, and the Tofu Coney Island, which is essentially an Asian spin on chili cheese fries are all insanely good. Heavy, but delicious. There's also an Ivan Ramen Slurp Shop in Gotham West Market.
Lower East Side
Katz’s Deli
205 E Houston St., Lower East Side
A legendary Jewish deli, Katz’s originally opened in 1888 under a different name, and across the street from its current location on Houston and Ludlow. It was an institution long before the iconic orgasm scene from When Harry Met Sally, although it didn’t hurt. Most people come for either the hot pastrami or corned beef sandwich, or the Reuben version, which adds Swiss cheese and sauerkraut. Katz’s credits its slow curing method, which can last up to a month, for the meat’s superior taste. (You’ll also find matzo ball soup on the menu, along with everything else you’d expect/want, as well as less traditional offerings for a Jewish deli, like NY-style cheesecake.) For those outside of the city, note that Katz’s ships across the States.
Lower East Side
Mimi Cheng’s
179 2nd Ave., East Village
For years, the Lower East Side has played host to the New York dumpling craze, of which we were avid participants from the start. However, every time we picked up those steaming pockets of goodness from a LES hole in the wall that started it all (which shall remain unnamed), in the back of our heads we worried about the provenance of the ingredients. They were so good, but at what cost? Then, Mimi Cheng’s came along and began serving up delectable Taiwanese-style dumplings made with antibiotic-free, local meat and fresh veggies. And, their hole in the wall is beautiful, whitewashed and dotted with bright yellow stools. For a fun date night, sign up for a Monday evening dumpling making class.
Lower East Side
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